Why Long-Form Content Builds Brands Better Than Snackable Content
October 16, 2019
Over the last week, I’ve watched an estimated 9 hours of television and have seen between 4–5 hours of video on YouTube and Facebook.
I remember all of the TV I watched. It includes three episodes of The Office, 15 mins of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, a mediocre movie with an extraordinary cast called Wine Country (which then inspired me to watch a documentary called Somm), and two football matches, both of which Tottenham Hotspur lost horribly, to my dismay.
I remember some of the videos from social media. There was a Saturday Nigh Live skit, an interview with Christoph Kemper (which then inspired me to watch a lecture from Christoph Cemper), and this compilation of dogs stealing food, among others.
Regardless of format, I can’t recall a single ad. I know I skipped many ads, but I don’t remember what any of them were. I have a feeling one prompted me to watch the aforementioned SNL skit, but aside from this, my mind draws a blank. If my conversations with others over the years are anything to go by, this experience is not unique to me.
The truth behind our consumption habits
As consumers, most of the videos we personally seek to watch are long-form and entertaining, but as marketers and video producers, most of the videos we create for businesses are short-form and advertorial in nature.
Despite being frequently told that shorter videos have more engagement, we all know that we personally engage more with longer content that is specifically related to our passions and interests.
This disconnect stems from our approach to distribution. Social media platforms, trying to offer advertising formats that media companies will buy instead of TV commercials, have optimized everything for the paid distribution of very short, quick videos. But at the same time, users are embracing the trend of binge-watching series for several hours straight.
“Social media platforms have optimized everything for the paid distribution of very short, quick videos. But at the same time, users are embracing the trend of binge-watching series.”
According to a 2013 Netflix survey, among the nearly 1,500 surveyed TV-streamers, 61% of users binge-watch shows regularly (in this case, binge-watching was defined as watching two to three episodes of a single series in one session).
As a consequence, more and more businesses are realizing that longer-form (~10+ mins) serialized videos are a better vehicle for building a brand than the shorter, snackable content social media is designed for — here’s why.
Viewers remember content they actively seek out
From ads and chatbots to pop-ups and more, we’re becoming increasingly adept at ignoring all of the cruft online that we don’t want to deal with or see. The reason I can’t remember many of the ads I’ve seen recently is because my brain just learns to block them out and get past them to see the content I set out to see — like a road-sign pointing to a location I’m not traveling to.
This phenomenon typically referred to as “banner blindness” has been documented for over 30 years, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The corollary here is that we’re more likely to remember the things we actively seek out than those that are thrust upon us.
Long-form video series, which people have to seek out and watch, demand a level of focus and attention that typically equates with a meaningful impression. This type of content, when created by a business, simply needs to embody the core tenants and values that resonate with the audience they’re hoping to attract.
Rather than being happy with an uptick in passive views under the misguided belief that simply getting more eyeballs on your content is all that matters, those of us that are trying to build a brand should demand an even trade from our audience — their attention in exchange for genuine entertainment.
“Those of us that are trying to build a brand should demand an even trade from our audience — their attention in exchange for genuine entertainment.”
Audiences build brand affinity with businesses over time
Just like with all human relationships, our affinity for brands grows largely in relation to the amount of time and commitment we put into it.
The concept of “love at first sight” isn’t really grounded in reality, and as anyone you know would admit, friendships take time to nurture. Similarly, any positive disposition we feel towards a company takes time to emerge as well. In order for that type of kinship to form, we need to spend time considering the ideas and messages a brand is espousing, see if they resonate with us on a personal level, and work out where that sits alongside our own hierarchy of values.
As a consequence, we will feel far more connected to the brand whose content we’ve spent four hours watching in quick succession, than with the brand whose short, disconnected videos we intermittently see in passing on Facebook or Instagram.
At Wistia, we don’t expect people to like us immediately. Our colorful, fun design, and nostalgia for old video formats are designed to capture attention, but our video series are the assets that cement a personal connection, through an exploration of ideas about marketing.
Those for whom our positions resonate will feel an affinity towards the brand, but this opinion takes time to be formed.
Brand identity is better expressed with long-form content
It’s very hard to say a lot in a few seconds with a video made for social media. Some brands manage to do it quite well and reap great rewards, but extraordinary viral campaigns are an absurd benchmark for the overwhelming majority of growing brands to aim for.
More common in the viral video space are campaigns that do well in terms of views and shares, but ultimately say very little about the brand in question. For example, our most successful video on social media to date, which we affectionately refer to as the "hot dog man" video, doesn’t tell you anywhere near as much about our brand, identity, or message as an episode of Brandwagon does.
With content that has a clear value proposition, a specific target audience, and a repeatable format, your brand’s personality has the space it needs to develop. It’s this identity with which your fans will feel personally connected to, rather than any quick emotional spikes that may come through shorter-form, snackable content.